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Timorese Court finds that it is unlawful to award works contracts for the Commission building Civil Service Featured

Díli, 03 Mar (Lusa) - The Timorese Chamber of Accounts considered the contracts signed for the design, supervision and construction of the new Civil Service Commission building in Díli to be illegal, harmful to the interests of the State and to the benefit of two companies.

In an audit report on the project published Tuesday it is written that the contract for design and supervision "did not safeguard the interests of the State, including financial, having resulted in a benefit to Pires Architects", a company of the current Minister of Public Works, Salvador Pires.

The work - which suffered numerous delays and serious technical problems - was also awarded without safeguarding the interests of the State to the company Timor Lorosae Independent Co. (TLIC), the worst of the five classified in the public tender, refers in the report.

At stake are the "procurement and execution procedures" of works contracts worth around 3.45 million dollars (three million euros) with TLIC and design and supervision procedures worth more than 758 thousand dollars with Pires Architects.

Pires Architects was created only in April 2009, one month before the contracts were signed. Salvador Pires was the main architect and team leader and only had in his project notebook the work of a kindergarten and a proposal submitted to the Government for the National Library.

The Chamber of Accounts (CoC) released Tuesday the audit report on compliance with the 1st phase of the construction project of the building of the Civil Service Commission (CFP), whose work would suffer several stoppages between 2010 and 2014.

The report indicates that the work was awarded to the company worst ranked among the five that submitted technical proposals, and was one of the three excluded for not having reached the minimum evaluation of 70 points, standing only at 15.9.

"The award of the contract to TLIC was made outside the law. The company had been excluded from the evaluation of the technical offers because it had not obtained the required minimum evaluation of 70 points and should therefore not have been taken into account at all', is considered.

"In the light of the above, it must be concluded that the award of the contract to TLIC for the construction of CFP's new building was illegal (...), the decision being taken to benefit TLIC to the detriment of all the other four competitors', the text states.

The document states that 'TLIC did not have the experience, commercial strength or financial and execution capacity necessary to carry out a project of the size' of this project, something known at the time of the tender.

"The way in which the construction was carried out and the problems encountered since its inception in November 2010 until its shutdown at the end of 2014 were the result of the decision taken in 2010", he stresses.

The explanations given to the CoC in the context of the audit by the then Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmão, "do not alter the above facts and conclusions, but essentially constitute an attempt at 'a posteriori' justification for a decision [to award the contract to TLIC] that was made outside the law," refers in the 241-page document.

The report considers, 'beyond any doubt', that there is 'a significant disproportion between what was paid to TLIC, what was deemed to have been achieved' by Pires Architects and the Government 'and what was actually achieved'.

The CoC considered the contracts signed with Pires Architects to be 'unlawful' as they violated several of the main principles of public procurement, including legality and compliance with legal standards, equality, competition, publicity and transparency, pursuit of the public interest and impartiality.

The report states that "no previous experience of the company and its supervision team (...) is known in works supervision works".

In addition to the main contracts, the report also targets the additional ones, questioning the validity of their signature, since the initial contracts provided for a "lump sum" regime, or single payment, and already "at a value considered very high" in relation to the value of the project.

"With the signature of the 1st additional to the contract, it now totals the value of 585 thousand dollars, corresponding to a percentage of the value of the work that is unparalleled in Timor-Leste (19.2%)", it is argued.

The report writes that the State failed throughout the execution of the work, because, "despite the inability shown by TLIC to execute the work, evident since the beginning of the work", the CFP (owner of the work) and the entities in charge of the supervision of the work, were "proceeding with the extension of the deadline for its completion, not requiring the company to comply with its contractual obligations and execute the work".

"The inability of the company to carry out the work should have led the State, in due course, to apply penalties to the company or simply to effect the termination of the contract," he says.

Part of the illegalities committed are not "susceptible of possible financial responsibility for sanctions, since the events occurred before the entry into force of the Organic Law of the Chamber of Auditors", he adds.

Even so, the report includes a map of possible "financial infractions and accountability", both punitive and reintegrative, for "illegal and undue payments".

Specifically, these are design and supervision contracts worth 30 thousand dollars and 208.5 thousand dollars, with the responsibility falling on the then president of the CFP, Libório Pereira.

One of the most serious problems was the lack of waterproofing of the walls of the basement destined for the CFP archive, a problem whose resolution took two years with a "deficient" execution that "did not guarantee the effective waterproofing of the roof, which, in addition to the significant cracks that existed, caused water to enter the roof," according to the document.

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